Thursday, January 4, 2024

Earl Fontainelle: Esotericism/Religion/Philosophy (Shooting Azimuths)

Earl Fontainelle is a researcher of religion and Philosophy, and the host of The Secret History of Western Esotericism.

Fontainelle, Earl. "Esoteric Orientalism Part II: The Greeks are Always Children?" The Secret History of Western Esotericism #9 (October 18, 2017) ["We looked in the last episode at the phenomenon of orientalism among the ancient Greeks, and at the particular brand of orientalism known as ‘Platonic’, an approach to non-Greek civilizations which sees them as ancient sources of wisdom personified by wise men like Zoroaster, Hermes, and others. In our second excursion into the ancient Greeks’ reception of their ancient neighbors, we look at the common Greek claim that they learned their sciences from the wise barbarians. Were they right to say this? We don’t manage to get very far toward answering this question in a general way, but we do settle a few points, including the fact that we must look to Mesopotamia for the origins of scientific astronomy, and that the Greeks were standing on the shoulders of Babylonian giants when they made their own striking advances in astronomy in the Hellenistic period. Having concluded this much, we can’t resist a quick look at the controversy surrounding Martin Bernal’s work Black Athena, which is still raging (if staid academic debates can be said to ‘rage’) thirty years on from the publication of its first volume. Bernal’s work takes an interesting angle on the ‘Greeks are always children’ theme, claiming that ancient Egyptian culture was hugely influential on the development of Greek culture. We don’t agree or disagree with this claim (yet), but we do agree with Bernal’s important observation that the classical history of the nineteenth century wrote the near east out of the Greek story for reasons that have more to do with ideas of ‘Aryan European’ identity than with historical evidence."]

---. "Methodologies for the study of Magic." The Secret History of Western Esotericism #5 (September 20, 2017) [MB - OK, quick, what comes to your mind when you hear the word magic? I'm really grooving on this podcast. I like the way Earl Fontainelle looks at these subjects from multiple angles. Here in order to start off an exploration of understandings/histories of magic, he breaks down the etymology, histories, and disinformation surrounding the word/concept. Highly recommended for those that practice magic, those that think magic is silly/dangerous, those that have deep religious beliefs (especially of a Manichean nature), those that are rigidly atheist (I would say fundamentalist), and definitely those that are wrapped up in fanatical ideologies (the type where whole groups of beings/cultures are the enemy and need to be wiped out). What is good or bad - how do we decide? what are the consequences of those decisions? The overall series is a treasure for artists/creatives/seekers (and Humanities professors like me :) What comes to your mind when you think of magic - what happens when we actual explore a concept and think about the multiple ways it is framed?]

---. "Prayer to the Gods of Night: The Near-Eastern Roots of Astrology." The Secret History of Western Esotericism #10 (October 25, 2017) ["The idea that the heavenly bodies follow recurring patterns seems obvious, but it only became obvious when someone discovered it. In fact, the Greeks seem not even to have known that the planets ‘wandered’ until the fifth century BCE. It was the Mesopotamian civilisation of the Babylonians who were really going hard with this stuff. From about 1,000 BCE (speaking very roughly) we see both a well-developed omen-literature, attributing earthly effects to numerous astronomical phenomena, and the beginnings of mathematical models whereby the movements of the various astral ‘gods’ could be predicted. This developed into both the first mathematical astronomy (as we saw last episode) and the beginnings of the first astrology (as we see this episode)."]

---. "So What is Western Esotericism, Anyway?" The Secret History of Western Esotericism (September 5, 2017) ["This episode introduces the SHWEP project, designed to be a tool for anyone wishing to explore the often misunderstood or overlooked byways of western culture; the aim is to be accessible to anyone with an interest in the history of ideas, while maintaining a standard of evidence-based, reliable, and balanced scholarship which will make the podcast useful to high-level academic specialists as well. The SHWEP is a long-form historical investigation, starting from as far back in history as we can go and attempting to trace the genealogies of important streams of esotericism all the way from the beginning to the present day. By engaging in dialogue with leading experts and specialists in every branch of the amazing field of western esoteric studies, SHWEP aims to provide the most complete, detailed, and up-to-date resource for studying these currents available anywhere outside of formal academe."]

Hanegraaff, Wouter. On Western Esotericism." The Secret History of Western Esotericism #3 (September 5, 2017) ["We ... discuss the thesis of his recent book Esotericism and the Academy, and in the process explore the contours of the historical development of western esotericism from late antiquity down to modern times, and consider the formation of western esotercism as an object of historical study in now almost forgotten polemics of the Reformation period. Finally, Professor Hanegraaff gives a cogent and forceful argument that the study of western esotericism is not just interesting to specialists and nerds (although it is), but absolutely essential to creating a more accurate history of the development of western thought as a whole."]

Seaford, Richard. "On the Origins of the Soul." The Secret History of Western Esotericism (September 13, 2017) ["In some of the earliest documents we possess from Indo-European cultures – the Rg Veda and the Homeric poems – the human beings depicted do not have ‘souls’. That is to say, they have organs of what we might call different types of consciousness, but there is no indication that there is a unifying principle which knits all the different organs together. Then, at the beginning of the sixth century BCE, something rather startling happens: in both Indian texts (the Brahmanas, Upanishads, and others) and in Greece (in the movement known as Pre-Socratic philosophy) the notion arises that there is indeed a unifying, bounded, and possibly immortal soul. Richard Seaford has a provocative theory, based in a sociological / anthropological approach, as to why this new and revolutionary idea comes into being at just this time in just these places. Whether you agree with him or not, you will not want to miss Professor Seaford’s masterful survey of the Greek and Sanskritic evidence for the first appearance of that most essential entity, the soul.
Other fascinating themes touched on:What is the ‘Axial Age’, and what makes it so ‘axial’? The problems of dating the Homeric poems and the Rg Veda. The origins of the concept of the incorporeal in Greece and India. What money and private property have to do with the rise of the soul."]

No comments:

Post a Comment